The Wiring Party

Evans felt something bump against his side. A second later and another bump. He slightly opened one eye and looked at dirt ceiling. He heard a mumbling noise. Another bump. Evans mumbled and rolled over onto something. Water splashed onto his face. Evans opened his eyes, he was lying on a boot. His eyes slowly worked their way up the boot and the pant leg until he was making eye contact with its owner.

“Come on, it’s almost midnight,” Zwev was already up and looking down on Evans, “And can you get off my boot?”

Evans pushed himself up and walked out. He and Zwev made their way down the trench lines to First Platoon, where the rest of the wiring party had gathered. The Lieutenant noted them and looked at his watch. He whispered to the party, “Everyone ready? Alright, Team One, Y’all need to grab the wire. Team Two, grab the screws. Team Two move out first. Let’s get this over with.”

Evans moved over to the pile of 2 meter long screws and picked up a bundle. He stood with Zwev and Alden behind Chilcott at the edge of the sap. Chilcott looked back at Lieutenant Simmons and then rolled over the top. Evans followed, making sure to stay low. Chilcott moved a few meters forward and waved Evans to him.

Evans followed and put down his bundle of screws. He pulled out his bayonet and cut the twine holding the bundle together. He picked up the first screw and pushed it into the wet mud. He slowly started to screw it into the ground while Chilcott stood waved Zwev to a position a few meters away. After 30 seconds, Evans had pushed the screw completely into the ground. He moved over to Chilcott as Ustinov moved in behind him to set up the wire.

It continued this way for a half an hour. Silently moving forward until, suddenly Evans could see clearly. Clear as day. Simmons half shouted, “Flare, get down!”

The party dived to the ground. Evans stifled a scream as the piece of barbed wire he had landed on drove into his torso. He closed his eyes and waited for the signal.

A shot rang out.

Evans heard a muffled curse.

Lieutenant Simmons whispered back, “Chilcott, have one of your soldiers leave their screws and bring whoever the fuck just got hit back to the trench.”

“Evans.” Chilcott slowly crawled over and elbowed Evans, “Drop your screws, I think the shot hit over there.”

Pushing his screws to the side, he painfully crawled towards the wounded soldier, moving as slowly as possible, to avoid the wrath of the enemy rifles.

After a slow and painful minute, he reached the body, “Hey, are you alright?”

“Yes, just fine and fucking dandy.”

Evans tried to make out who the voice was in the flickering light provided by the flare, “Ustinov?”

The man nodded while cringing. Evans patted him down to try and find the bullet wound. He noticed a dampness around Ustinov’s thigh. Reaching into his back pocket, Evans fished out a bandage and wrapped Ustinov’s leg. He then grabbed him under the shoulders and began the slow crawl back to the Ethslin lines. He had at least managed to pull the strip of barbed wire out his chest.

After the flare went down, Evans felt bold enough to stand a little higher and dragged him back quickly to Second Platoon’s trench. He dragged Ustinov up until the parapet then dropped in. He walked over and tapped one of the soldiers on watch, “Hey, can you help me drag Ustinov into the trench?”

Cain took a step down and nodded. Evans led her down the trench back to where Ustinov was lying. She pulled down his legs while Evans put him over his shoulder stood up. He grunted at Cain and then turned to head down the trench line to the casualty collection point in company headquarters.

He stumbled through the dark deserted trenches for a few minutes until he stumbled upon the company headquarters. A startled young woman aimed a rifle at him, “Halt! Password!”

Evans drew a blank, “Um… Shit… I don’t know.”

The woman lowered her left hand while keeping the rifle trained on Evans. She reached into her pocket and flicked her fingers, a flame shot out of what Evan’s guessed was a lighter. She held it up to his face and then quickly slung her rifle, “Shit! That guys wounded. Um… Fuck it, keep moving. Password is Goldfish by the way.”

Evans moved on down the line, confused at his interaction with the guard. After a few minutes, he managed to stumble into the casualty collection point and he put Ustinov on a cot. He looked to his right and saw a dimly lit bell that read, ‘Ring for Service’. Shrugging, he rung the bell.

A voice called out from a nearby dugout, “Just a minute!” Half a minute later, a glow came from the dugout. A tall, handsome man lit by a lantern exited the dugout. The captains pips on his shoulders glowed orange under the light.

“Captain Jackson!?” Evans snapped to attention and saluted.

Captain Jackson nodded and returned the salute, “Medics needed sleep, and I was up to wait for the wiring party. I was halfway through medical school when I joined the army.” Captain Jackson knelt down next to the cot and scanned Ustinov, “He was hit on the party?”

“Yes sir.”

Captain Jackson gestured at the bandage, “You put this on Private?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, next time you might want to put the bandage on the wound next time,” Captain Jackson undid the bandage and started wrapping Ustinov’s torso, “Don’t worry, it’s not that bad of a hit, I’ve seen men survive longer on worse.”

“Alright Sir.”

“Was this your first wiring party son?”

Evans was taken aback slightly by the sudden familiarity, “Yes sir, I joined the company last week sir.”

The Captain paused for a few seconds as he took Ustinov’s pulse. He then walked into the dugout, waving Evans to follow him, “Yesterday was your first show then? We sure gave the Boxers a right licking eh?”

Evans wasn’t quite sure what the Captain meant, so he nodded, hoping for that it was the right answer.

“Good chap,” Captain Jackson looked through a few drawers before finally coming across some pills, “That private you brought in is already out, but I’m going to give him a little kick to bring him well good.”

Evans nodded again, pretending that he knew what the Captain was talking about. As the Captain left the dugout, Evans quickly looked around. Strangely enough, the dugout had curtains installed on the side, as if they were covering up a window, even though he was a few feet underground. Shrugging, Evans followed Captain Jackson out to casualty area.

Captain Jackson had woken Ustinov and was offering him a flask. Ustinov feebly grabbed the flask and took a drink. Captain Jackson turned to Evans, “You can head back to your platoon.”

Evans nodded and turned back to the trench. He was stopped again by the woman he had seen earlier, pointing her rifle again, “Password!”

“Goldfish.”

“Wait, you were the guy from earlier,” She slung her rifle pulled out her lighter again and held it closer to herself, revealing her face. She had a small, dainty face, interrupted by a sharp scar from her ear to her nose. She smiled at him, “Is that guy alright?”

“Um… The Captain thinks he will be,” Evans looked back over his shoulder then looked forward again, “I’m Evans by the way.”

“Lucy,” she got a funny look on her face, shook her head then talked again, “Um… Could you do me a favor?”

“Yeah…” Evans half shrugged, “Sure?”

“Thank Joshua!” She unslung her rifle and handed it to Evans, “I’ve been, um… ‘holding it’ for about an hour now.” Lucy scampered over to a bucket and started to pull down her pants. Evans turned away and distracted himself with the rifle. He pulled back the bolt slightly and looked at the bullet he had been threatened with twice tonight. It was sort of shiny.

Ramming the bolt back forward, he tried to listen to what was happening in No-Mans Land. It was silent, which he figured was a good thing. He felt a tap on his shoulder, “I’m done, you need to use it before I toss it out?”

Lucy held up the bucket, half filled with liquid, with a few solid bits floating within. It amazed Evans that he didn’t really smell anything. Had he really been acclimatized to the constant stench of it already? He waved his hand to signal that he didn’t. Shrugging, Lucy threw the liquid in the bucket over the side of the trench. She put the bucket down in the corner again.

Evans held the rifle back out to her, and she smiled, “So, you want to…” She made an obscene gesture with hands.

Momentarily flustered, Evans panicked, “Um, sorry, I should be going back to my platoon…” Evans put the rifle in her hands, “Your, um, a very attractive lady, but um… I just met you, and I feel like this really isn’t the place. Sorry.”

Lucy shrugged as she checked the rifle over, “No worries, I’m just looking for a way to pass the time. Be seeing you!”

Evans nodded and slunk off, confused about the whole situation, hoping to see Zwev when he got back.

When he arrived back at the trench, he walked up to Cain, “Hey, Cain, the party arrive back yet?”

“No,” She pointed down towards Third Platoon, “They’re about halfway past third.”

Evans squinted and looked towards the party. He could somewhat make them out under the faint light, “Any more action since I came through?”

“Nope. Been quiet.”

Evans nodded and sat down on the fire step next to Cain. He pulled a pad of paper out of his breast pocket and started to write another letter to Jack.

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